Hands down, Thurman Thomas is my all-time favorite Buffalo Bill. Freddie Jackson has a piece of my heart, but No. 34 will always be No. 1.
Of course the Sig Other and I had to bring my dad (the guy who took me to my first Bills game) to check out 34 Rush, the sports bar named for Thomas in the newly renovated Batavia Downs.
So on a blustery Saturday afternoon, we hopped on the 90 and headed east.
It was our first trip to Batavia Downs. We can report the newly renovated space on the lower level is slick, with 34 Rush set in the middle. The OTB across the street will relocate to the second level, which is now being renovated.
The first thing we noticed about 34 Rush was a beautiful, giant mural of Thomas. On the ceiling, it starts at the helmet and runs vertical to his cleats, ending at a huge wall of screens which together create one giant screen. Very cool.
The dark, slate gray floor is marked like a football field. Guests enter on the 50-yard line. To the right are slots, to the left a football-shaped bar.
The bar is lit up by a glow that outlines its oval shape. Video slots are embedded in the bar top. Above, TVs line the inner and outer bar – great for viewing multiple sports. Since it was Saturday, tons of college football was running along with the NFL Network.
On tap we found the basics – Coors, Miller Lite, Labatt, Yuengling, Blue Light, Blue Moon, Bud, Flying Bison, Sam Adams, “Just Beer” IPA and Redd’s Apple Ale. Bottle choices are basic, too, with Blue, Bud, Coors, Mich, Genny, Miller, Heineken, Corona, Sam Adams and PBR. Drafts start at $3.25 (16 oz.); bottles at $2.25. There’s a full bar of liquor and wines, which start at $4.
Interestingly, 34 Rush uses plastic for drinks and drafts. Kinda gives a tailgate feel.
At the 20-yard line, the floor changes to dark red (for the red zone!) ending at a memorabilia case with a sports ticker running its length. One item that stands out is a tattered white No. 34 jersey. Each smudge, tear and stain represents the hard-earned yards of the Hall of Famer. His jacket is to its right, a testament to his greatness. We wished for labels on items. Maybe they will come?
The funniest items? Plastic action miniatures of the greats – Nos. 12, 83, 78 and 34 and a picture of Thomas as an Oklahoma State Cowboy. Did he really have hair at one time?
Of course the TVs and slots (especially the one in the bar called “Shadow of the Panther”) are entertaining, but we immediately zeroed in on the ponies – specifically the off-track betting available in 34 Rush.
A TV-filled corner was showing all the tracks – Gulf Stream, Belmont, Woodbine and Finger Lakes. We loved the old timers with the horse books plotting their bets. We relied on our usual strategy of betting on fun names and promptly lost. But at least we figured out how to work the auto betting terminals.
We decided to eat at Fortuna’s, the on-site Italian restaurant near 34 Rush. Be sure to check out the amazing water wall that spells out words and forms slot-looking shapes at its entrance.
On the way out we made one last stop at 34 Rush. The crowd had picked up with lots of couples and groups. It would be a great place to watch a Bills game.
It was then a guy decked out in a white cowboy hat and Dallas Cowboys jacket strode in, then promptly walked out.
“Yeah,” I thought. “You better stay outta here. No. 34 wouldn’t like it.”
It’s just the way it is when you’re a Bills fan.
34 Rush Sports Bar
The Scene: Brand new, sleek sports bar in the heart of the newly renovated casino.
Atmosphere: Comfortable, older crowd.
Food and drink: Game day specials include 16 oz. drafts, $2; 22 oz. drafts, $3; well drinks, $2.50; wine, $4. Limited food menu includes a “Thurmanator Burger” – a half bacon, half beef cheeseburger with Frank’s Hot Sauce, sliced blue cheese, green onion on a pretzel roll ($8.95).
Hours: Batavia Downs opens at 8 a.m., 34 Rush opens at 10 a.m. Live racing through first week of December.
Wheelchair access: Yes